Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Widow's Kitchen


I eat out a lot and it’s a good thing because I’m a failure in the kitchen. My meal planning and grocery shopping skills are non-existent. If you follow the ‘Living Richly in Retirement’ blog you’ll know that Barb posts a lot about budgets, buying on sale and planning and to understand my approach, just think the opposite of what she does. I don’t follow sales nor budgets. In fact I rarely look at the price on grocery items. In my defense, I’ve never had to feed a family of hungry kids and before my husband’s stroke, we spent our entire adult lives eating the main meal of the day in restaurants. It worked better for our crazy schedules, thus my cooking skills are not honed to perfection like most women's my age.

So what to do I eat? I wing it mostly. When I’m hungry I open the refrigerator or freezer and stare inside. When I’m not on a ‘winging it’ kick, the sum total of my planning consists of taking something out of the freezer at bed time and putting a notation on my planner for the next day such as: ribs in the crock pot by 12:00 or cook salmon for dinner. I usually have chicken, pork, salmon and beef in the freezer---cut up and packaged in single cooking and serving sizes. I only cook once or twice a week but always on Sundays. I also like to bake scones on the weekend but that only happens once or twice a month. Before I got on the scones kick, I baked artisan breads---my only claim to kitchen fame. When I’m winging it I get by with Stouffer’s or Eat Well freezer-to-microwave meals. Heck, I've even been known to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner. Once in while I’ll make chili or soup, eat part and freeze the rest for later. For breakfast if I don't have scones I'll make oatmeal or cream of wheat or I'll have an Atkin’s Protein Drink if I’m going out for lunch later.

I might be an old dog but I can learn new tricks. Recently, I’ve discovered how to make chicken wings in the crock pot. I’m having them later today in fact. But with all my crock pot cooking I cheat. I’m using a half-a-pack of Tavern Wings Seasoning Mix. Oh and I’ll cheat with soup as well. I like Bear Creek mixes that I’ll add something extra to…like ham cubes to the bean mix. I used to make chicken soup from scratch using a rotisserie chicken carcass but I got so scared that I'd chock on a bone that I quit so now I just cook an extra chicken thigh occasionally and add that to a Bear Creek mix. But nothing is better or easier than a rib-eye steak marinated in a half-a-pack of McCormick Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon mix or pork ribs in a crock pot with Maple Sugar Ribs Seasoning Mix. Sugar? Oh, yes, it’s probably my favorite food group, but sadly we can’t eat it three times a day, seven days a week. 

Vegetables. I can hear the healthy eaters ask if I get that food group into my diet. I buy salads and eat them at least once a week under protest. I cook fresh cauliflower, broccoli and snow peas weekly and fight the dog for eating them raw right out of the refrigerator for snacks. And I always have organic carrots and potatoes in the refrigerator to add to the crock pot or to cook in the microwave. If you’re going to buy anything organic, it should be the root vegetables because they contain more pesticides than vegetables that grow at the top of the plants. We once knew a farmer who grew carrots for a large cannery back in the day when it was still legal to use kerosene for week killer. He told us to smell the carrots in the supermarket for a hint of kerosene and he was right, you could smell it if you were looking for it. They've outlawed kerosene used this way in most countries now but I’ve never forgot that lesson so when organic carrots and potatoes came along I jumped on that bandwagon. Experts will tell you the same thing about organic root vegetables being worth the extra cost, while the others not so much.

And fruits? I’m glad you asked. I buy three bananas every couple of weeks. I buy strawberries in season and I alternate buying red raspberries and blue berries every other week year-around. I buy three pounds of apples in the fall and make apple sauce with them in the spring. I don’t like apples but they're my winter security blanket. It's a quirk I'd explain if I could but I've can't.

I love reading blogs like the one mentioned above. I know if I ever have to tighten the reigns on my grocery spending, I’ve got a lot of room and a road map for improvement. On the plus side, I don’t waste food. I grew up in a household that respected the privilege of having food on the table. We ate left overs every Friday night---things like hash made from left over meats and fried mash potato paddies. Mom served bread pudding, too, made with stale bread and by far bread pudding is still my favorite comfort food. And I never leave food behind in a restaurant. I put an ice pack and an insulated bag in the car for take-out boxes when I know I'm going to be eating out that day.

There you have it, my widow’s kitchen expose. All my shameful and embarrassing secrets have been unmasked and, yes, I know my haphazard approach to eating is not healthy. And for sure, no old duffer is going to set his sightings on marrying me for my cooking skills and I'm okay with that. However, if I ever meet Guy Fieri from the Food Network, he'd better be wary of me setting my sights on him. I do love a man who can cook. ©

 

43 comments:

  1. I don't think any of this is Shameful. You are doing what works for you, and you know what's healthful and how to make healthful foods. If your doctor ever told you to limit your sodium, fat, sugar, or carbs, you can read labels and act accordingly. Plus, you're reasonably active, especially in decent weather.

    Wasting food is one of my pet peeves as well. I really go out of my way to make sure that does NOT happen.

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    1. I know so many good cooks and people who can sit and talk recipes by the hour and I feel like the odd man out in their company. I have gone to them for advice if something special comes up but otherwise I'm happy to be me. I've missed the cooking gene. My brother got it. But there are times when my lack of interest in cooking makes me feel inferior.

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  2. You know Jean, it must be hard to create dinners just for one. I'm the chef for my family but I'm getting tired of cooking chicken all the tired but in reality if I had to only cook for me I'd go crazy. It would be a waste of time creating a complete dinner just for me. Peanut butter & jelly with bananas would be OK for me. I would love to cook a wonderful dinner for you Jean. We would start with my wife's soup, it taste scrumptious. After we would have spaghetti & meatball ( I make my own sauce and meatballs. None of that bottled crap that you buy in at the grocery ). After that we would have veal with mushrooms, peas & corn ( for my wife ), cauliflower in oil, and broccoli with garlic, Mashed pototoes with gravy. For dessert maybe chocolate cake or pumpkin pie. And of course coffee ot tea. Well what do you think? Of course if I was by myself, it would be peanut butter and jelly and bananas. See ya my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. You have my mouth watering. Sounds like a great meal fit for queens and kings.

      I have not had homemade spaghetti and meatballs in like forever. Believe it or not I used to know how to make it and other tasty things. But then I met my husband and he hated anything with tomato paste in it or chicken. An Italian who can't cook with tomato paste...well, that cut out a lot of the fun of cooking. And chicken was MY favorite. So many ways to fix it but I don't like chicken in restaurants because it's usually pressed white meat and too dry.

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  3. Use to be a pretty good cook, not so much these days. Looking for simple and quick--often resorting to microwave meals. If you really hunt, there are some pretty good ones out there. Healthy Choice Power Bowls are my new favorites. They have a Cuban flavor and lots of healthy stuff including Chard, Kale and Spinach. Yep, I have gotten lazy.

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    1. They really have improved the TV dinners in recent years. I love the Eat Well dish with pork and cherries. Have not tried the Healthy Choice Power Bowls. Might pick one up today at the store. Thanks for the tip.

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  4. I think baking scones makes up for any quick fixes you pull off in the kitchen. I've lived alone for >25 yrs. I plan a weekly menu with 3 items, one being soup. I like to do my food prep on Saturday morning while listening to a favorite radio program. Like you, I abhor food waste so menu planning involves taking stock of what needs to be used up. Any leftovers are re-purposed or frozen for a later date. I think you need to give yourself more credit for what goes on in that kitchen of yours.

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    1. Thanks. It just seem so unplanned and haphazard because it really is but I don't waste anything so I'm proud of that.

      Your Saturday ritual is like my Sunday ritual. It's when I clean the refrigerator and take care of the groceries I'm restocking and cook a good meal.

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  5. I also come from a family where the boys got the cooking gene, from my brother to my husband. All of our marriage I did the weeknight stuff and he did the weekend and holiday thing. Also I do not live alone and cooking for two is not the same. I fully admit that a large portion of the reason i keep the grocery budget in check is so that we can eat out, and I dont mean fast food-or at least order in. Where was grub hub, postmates and door dashyears ago.

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    1. I wish we had grub hub delivery where I live. Maybe they do in the downtown area but not here in the suburbs. The restaurants they have listed are great places that I'd never go to alone.

      I think you are an analyst at heart. You are great at setting goals and making and carrying out plans be it with crafts or grocery budgeting and I admire that.

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  6. I am also on my own after 44 years. My situation ended in divorce. It's a challenging cooking healthy meals for one but I manage with lots of soups. I've glad to have found your blog after following Cooper and Levi.

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    1. 'm not a real fan of soups but a lot of the women I eat out with will order soups and think it's a treat. I only make it in the winter.

      Funny you should mention Levi and Cooper's blog. I just posted a note on the blog this morning! I don't want it to disappear off in cyber space. I remember your siblings, Molly, from back when Levi was actively blogging.

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  7. I love this! My family lore includes the sad truth that "Mom/Grandma doesn't cook". The thing is, I used to. When my kids were very young I planned, shopped, and cooked every night. I set the table and lit candles and put on "new age" music to set a nice family dinner scene (amongst the chaos -- I was trying for an island of calm). But then the boys grew older and sports practices were right at dinner time, I had PTA meetings, a husband whose work schedule was unpredictable...I just gave up. We ate a lot of pizza at home or lots of meals out in Mexican restaurants -- the cuisine we all agreed upon. My husband now does most of the shopping and cooking. I help out (sometimes). I've decided I CAN cook; I just choose not to. My skills are rusty and I screw up a lot and I just really don't care enough to improve. I prefer to graze upon whatever is quick and easy. I keep lots of healthy food in the house and generally find something nutritious and quick. I'm a fan of roasted in the oven veggies, frozen shrimp, mussels, scallops, sometimes a little chicken, some soups, various kinds of Indian food and simmer sauces I find at Costco, packaged salads, Skinny Pop popcorn, and blueberries and Greek yogurt. Any combo is my dinner, dessert, snack go-to!

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    1. In this day and age knowing how to cook really isn't important anymore.

      I like your sentence, "I've decided I CAN cook; I just choose not to." I could say the same thing. I just don't do it enough that it comes naturally and without having to look things up to refresh myself.

      I love Skinny Popcorn too and Boom Chicka Pop, their sweet & salty kettle corn. I love them so much I purposely didn't buy either one this week because I can't leave them alone.

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  8. I'm probably the only person I know who has to dust the range top of her stove because of disuse. I microwave, mostly Lean Cuisine and occasionally Amy's Light & Lean Organic dinners (although they cost twice what Lean Cuisine does.) I add some steamed frozen vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower and call it a day. I've always liked baking better than day to day cooking but it's just me now and I end up eating it all, so that's out except for pumpkin pies twice a year for holiday dinners. I make up for it all with a chocolate addiction.

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    1. I gave up backing bread for the same reason. At least with scones they freeze really well and you can take out one at a time and microwave them.

      I've tried Amy's and didn't really like them. I think with all the frozen dinners, you have to switch them off because you get tired of them other wise.

      I'm always amazed that my stove top needs cleaning, at least my house cleaning service does it every month, whether it needs it or not.

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    2. I made chocolate cranberry buttermilk scones yesterday. The intention was to use them as a hostess gift today. They sure didn't look like the picture in the magazine. Too crowded on the sheet? Butter not cold enough? Not gift worthy but tasty.

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    3. It's amazing how much difference the temperature of the butter makes. I have a scone pan for making mini scones. They come out the perfect shape every time. Well, unless you rush the process and try to put them on a cooling rack too soon. Got to rest 5 minutes first before taking them out of the pan. Some directions call for you to bake scones as one round, flat piece and cut them when they come out of the oven. I like my pan better.

      I also use sparkling sugar on the scones before they go in the oven. That really give them a professional look. I need to try glazes but I'm thinking they won't freeze as well.

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  9. Wait wait wait! Not a "failure" ... there is a VERY wealthy woman who had her own TV show (maybe still does) called Semi-Homeade Cooking ... Sandra Lee! (interesting autobiography as well). When I was alone I barely cooked ... Lean Cuisine (Stouffers low cal brand) and salad. Poached egg. Cottage cheese and fruit. Pizza. I suppose that's why I would host gatherings (potluck) so I could have a chance to cook.

    Now I've got it made! A bit of what they are eating (lots of carbs and hamburger ... very friendly on a budget) and either salad or veggies. It's hard to resist the aromas of cooking, so I don't deprive myself.

    I don't look at prices either ... I remember Mr. Ralph's mom asking how much bananas were out here (she was in Indiana) and I couldn't really say! If we wanted a banana, we bought one. Personally, I LOVE that stores are selling fresh fruit already cut up ... then I don't have to eat cantaloupe for a week!

    That retirement blog is amazing! I found her through you. I've never had to be on a budget either .... but I'm sure we old dogs can learn that trick if/when we need to!

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    1. I love stores that sell mixed boxes of cut up fruit. I just wish they'd sell them in smaller quantities. I love watermelon slices too.

      You've got it made with the cooks in your household.

      Semi-Homemade. I'm going to adopt that phrase! Thanks. LOL

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  10. I love bread pudding. I haven't made it in a long time. I can't leave it alone if it's in the house. My mother used to make it. It's so easy but no one makes it anymore.

    My niece Crystal has gotten H into watching the sales and coupon clipping, but if we really want something, we usually get it, no matter the price. I'm glad you eat some veggies and fruit. I have a hard time getting H to eat fruit. I don't understand it. I love fruit, but he only eats it if I urge him, then he usually says it was good. I think he just doesn't think about it.

    I fell for organic carrots years ago. They are so much better, sweeter, crisper... just better. Thanks for letting us look inside your kitchen. I'll have to do a post like this someday.

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    1. I don't remember having fruit when I was growing up. Maybe that's that reason It's not high on my list of favorites.

      I have a recipe for caramel apple bread pudding that is to die for. I made it once and decided never to make it again because I literary couldn't leave it alone.

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  11. What happened? I typed a comment, then scrolled up to read the others before publishing mine and it's gone. So, if this is a duplicate you can delete one. What did I say?

    Oh, I noted my proclivity to cook as little as possible now -- cooking was fun when I had time, but was a chore otherwise. Probably good that I don't bake now -- too much sugar and too many carbs tempting. Budgets were always part of my life regardless of income -- tight budgets, loose budgets, floating budgets -- what can I say, I like numbers! I figure I've earned the right to squander my meager resources -- if now now, when? I enjoy salads, veggies, also fresh prepared meals and soups I just pop in the microwave, lots of fresh fruit, fish, foul and dairy. I rarely eat red meat having evolved away from it several decades ago when I discovered how differently I felt and I liked that. Always have some selective frozen items in the freezer.

    How lucky we are to have fresh fruits and veggies available year 'round. I recall as a child what a treat having a fresh apple or orange could be in a midwestern snowy winter.

    Fortunate is the woman whose husband shares the cooking. I did introduce both my children to cooking and have been pleased my son, especially, enjoys cooking which his wife appreciates also.

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    1. Younger guys are much more apt to cook than those from are generation. You were lucky to have a husband who shared the chore.

      I've heard other people say they feel better when they don't eat read meat. I'm the opposite. I crave it if I go too long without having meat. Then I feel guilty when I do.

      We are indeed a lucky country to have so much food available and year around.

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  12. Sounds like you are eating healthier (and cooking more) than a lot of people I know, Jean!

    I do like cooking, and cooking for others. I don't get much of a chance of that on the daily anymore, but I still cook for an "army" when I do spend time in the kitchen. I blame my mother, who always cooked for 10 if she was expecting 5 for dinner. No way anyone was going to push away from her table complaining there wasn't enough food to eat their fill! Luckily, I like leftovers and cook purposefully to create them.

    I've had to worry a lot about money in the past and only bought food that was on sale. Today I am still very aware of what a luxury it is to put food in my cart just because I feel like eating it, instead of worrying about whether or not I can afford it.

    Deb

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    1. I know a couple of people who cook like your mom and they always send left-overs home with the elderly and other people living alone. I love that kind of generosity and forethought. My youngest niece actually buys deli containers to use to give away left-overs. On the other hand, it really hurts to watch a hostess scrap left-overs in the trash.

      Next time you cook for an army count me in.

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    2. I'd love to have you over for a meal someday Jean! Ever get to Canada?

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    3. Only in my dreams and vicariously through reading blogs.

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  13. Ha! Figured out how to get back into Blogger as Gowithe after a two year + break.

    Dreams of prepping meals are arising again. Though right now they are nightmares...argh! I've gotten so used to restaurant meals and take-out during this kitchen renovation.

    Life is normalizing though, enough to return to your dear site, Jean.

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    1. Welcome back! I was at your old blog recently looking for activity. Glad to know you're still kicking around the universe.

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    2. I'm tickled pink knowing you're still curious about me.

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    3. Always wondered if you got your camper out and roamed the country and are still eating breakfast out and doing your art, etc.

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    4. yes, no, yes, yes. Yes to etcetera, too ;-)

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  14. I cook very little. My painful back doesn't allow for standing at the counter chopping and dicing and all that. I eat a lot of sandwiches--with chicken or tuna salad from Meijer and Koegel Viennas and popcorn and milk for supper a lot. The only veggies I get are the celery and onion in the sandwich makings...raspberry jam on my ice cream. LOL

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    1. Whatever works, that's my motto. I actually forgot to list that I eat tuna, sardines and egg salad sandwiches, too. Just split a small tuna can with the dog.

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  15. Your widow's kitchen isn't all that different from mine, at least when I'm not cooking for Rick or company! I understand completely!

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  16. I'm the outlier here, I guess. I eat out twice, maybe three times a month, and that's it: one breakfast with a friend, and a couple of lunches with friends. Otherwise, I cook -- and no frozen dinners, or take-out, or drive-throughs. It's as much a budget thing as anything else, but on the other hand, I'm a good cook, and usually end up enjoying what I make more than I enjoy what I get in restaurants. I eat local and seasonal as much as I can, too, so the grocery cart's usually filled with fruit and veggies, dairy, fish and meat, and those occasional needs like flour or sugar. If I could keep ice cream out of the cart, I'd do better. I'm incapable of bringing it in the house and thinking, "I'll make it last for two weeks." Two days? More likely.

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    1. I admire people who enjoy cooking for themselves. I could easier motivate myself when I had my husband to feed.

      Ice cream is my favorite food. But for the past year I don't bring it home in a cartoon. I buy those mini ice cream cones for 11o calorie which usually satisfy me but once in a while I have two in a sitting.

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  17. "I never leave food behind in a restaurant." LOL, neither do I -- because I always eat it all. For me, cooking for myself is a necessity for controlling portion size. (And, if I'm honest, even though I'm not a gourmet cook, I generally like my own cooking better than what's on offer in most restaurants.)

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    1. I'm not a very fuzzy eater. It has to be really bad before I won't eat anyone's cooking including my one. Although I've never had a meatloaf I wouldn't gladly feed the dog under the table. I don't get why people like it.

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  18. I'm just as bad as you. Didn't have to cook after the kids left home and got by with mostly eating out. Now, I don't remember how to cook and don't really want to. However, diabetes has set in and I've got to really get organized. I've ordered a bunch of diabetic cookbooks from the library in hopes I'll find a dozen recipes I like.

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    1. Sorry to hear about the diabetes but it sounds like you are approaching it the right way. Once you find your recipes you can make frozen dinners for yourself and not have to cook every day.

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